Wednesday, July 20, 2011

ROW80: E-reader Pagination Scare

Today's check-in represents a full week for me. I skipped out on Sunday because I was out of town.  Now I need to go back and perform an archaeological dig on my electronic life for the last 7 days.  I was surprised by both how little I remember and how busy I was.  Sometimes you just don't notice how hectic things have gotten until you're trying to explain them to others.

A little personal side-note: This summer has been the epitome of busy.  Literally every other weekend has been exhausted by travel.  Generally, they've all been for weddings.  Family and close friends.  Stuff you can't really bow out of.  My wife and I both have big families.

(Side, side note: I'm also a volunteer football coach at the local high school, an avid player of casual adult sports, and an engineer in the automotive industry... late summer is a busy time for all of those tidbits.)

In the midst of all that, we released our first book; a busy time in its own right.  The good part about releasing a book while doing the summer wedding tour is that there are plenty of people to talk to about it.  I'm not exactly an avid self-promoter, but I figure when that great aunt on your Dad's side asks the inevitable "So, what are you up to these days?" question... she's asking for it.  Besides, it's more fun for both of us to talk about books than the boring old grind, right?

With a first book release have been the ubiquitous road bumps.  I've talked about some hassles getting the book up on B&N.  Our print proof had a couple issues.  Then last night we discovered we had a TOC and pagination issue in our released ebooks.  We take quality very seriously in our household business, so this was a mini-emergency.  More on that in a moment though, as there is a lesson learned, which is one of my goals.

Finally, as if that weren't enough, my wife's sister got diagnosed with a recurrence of ovarian cancer.  In addition to quality, we take cancer very seriously in our household.  We do relays and walks and runs.  Ribbons and donations.  It's a personal thing, so I won't elaborate too much.  After all, who's life has cancer left untouched?  Thus, you can all understand how it adds an unwelcome stress to an already stressful summer.  It was in relating all this to a friend that I thought: "Wow, this really has been a helluva summer."

Yet we still got the book out.  It is still selling.  I am still writing.  In fact, if anything, I'm writing more.  I think one of the signs that you're a "writer" (if you need them, which writers generally do) is that you turn to writing when things go gunnysack.

If nothing else comes of this ROW80 (which I believe other good things will), it has already taught me that "when the going gets tough, the writer gets writing."  At least for me.  And I think other writers will understand when I say that is a comfort.  No matter how bad things get, no matter how busy you are... there are always words.  They can be bad words, sad words, or half-asleep-yet-hopped-up-on-caffeine words.  They're still words, and they are my woolly blanket.

Here's a quick shot of my goals this past week:
  • Publishing lesson learned:  E-reader Pagination is wonky.  More in a minute.
  • WIP pages: 6.  Nailed it.  Had to pull double duty a couple days, but it was a fun scene so not very hard to do.
  • Posts: This makes 5 here and 4 on the gaming blog.  Shattered this one.  Got a fun fiction post up on each of those as well.  I still need to make my monthly personal post, but I may regurgitate and elaborate on the beginning of this one.  It's got good personal undertones (and obviously a recording of Important Shit, which is the point).
Considering that turmoil of the past few weeks, I'm pretty psyched about the progress.  Still, as I mentioned, it didn't seem all that hard.  I mean yeah, I felt busy, but writing also helps me deal.  It's a comfort.  Better than sex... um, television.

Oh, and the e-reader emergency?  Apparently the damn things don't paginate based on clicks or the actual display.  They count based on the background HTML coding.  Thus, one page turn does not necessarily equal one "page" on the count.  Kindle avoids this by using a percentage and specifying "locations," but Nook sure doesn't.  They just have an unlabeled number (proving my middle school science teacher right about the need to label your units!). 

We got early feedback from a trusted reader basically saying: "Um, this is weird."  Then, we panicked and thought we'd done something wrong and were putting out complete crap and were going to get loads of 1-star reviews because we can't even master a simple HTML conversion tool (simple being sarcastic, mind you... mystical and enigmatic may be more appropriate, and we're very tech-literate).  After breathing and a few shots of whiskey, we discovered the truth of the matter.  We did have a minor TOC issue, but that was easily remedied.

Anyway, to bring this long ramble back to ROW80... I hope that the rest of you are knocking your goals out of the park.  Perhaps the shamble described above can serve to motivate you.  Or, maybe confirmation of the pagination issue comforts you.  Either way, keep on ROWin'.

Word counts:
  • Since last check-in: 6178
  • Fiction: 2048
  • 33% New Fiction
  • Grand Total for the challenge: 14213

6 comments:

cmstewartwrite said...

Best wishes for your sister-in-law's recovery. Sounds like you have a remarkable family, you're very lucky. :)

Glad to read you are having success with your published book, and are chugging away at your WIP. Keep chugging!

Matt said...

Thanks and thanks! :-)

Vicki Keire said...

Wow, you weren't kidding about the busy part. Amazing progress on your ROW80 goals, especially considering everything else going on. Best wishes to your sister and family as you cope. You're right about how everyone's been touched by cancer. You seem to have a good support network, though.

Matt said...

Yeah, I definitely can't complain because we do have that network. And I have writing. It could be far, far worse.

On the other hand, I file times like this away for the times when everything is calm and I'm dragging my feet for no good reason. Then I can sometimes guilt myself into writing :-).

Nadja Notariani said...

As another writer (one who has had an obnoxiously busy summer), I can relate to writing being your wooly (my wubby). I also have a large family....4 sisters and 4 brothers...(Yes...my father was a Catholic, but after the ninth child, he converted, for sanity's sake) ...anyway, ahem...the driving and visiting is fantastic, but exhausting. Work suffered for a few weeks as I don't work well when not in my familiar surroundings.

I will keep your family (your busy family) in my prayers. We, too, had unhappiness enter our family, but having one another to turn to has helped so much. Best wishes.

I have not listed a table of contents for the chapters at the beginning of my novel. Was it that the table did not match up with the page numbering/page breaks? Now I'm wondering about that. If you find a minute to post on my blog, I'd greatly appreciate the information. Thanks... ~ Nadja

Matt said...

I didn't do a manual TOC... So long as you make use of headings in your conversion, the formats do it for you. Thus, the TOC issue was separate from the pagination. The chapter headings weren't all showing up, so we just had to clean up the hierarchy formatting in the source file. There was no pagination attached to them, since you just tell your ereader to "jump to." That all works just fine now.

If you're going the ebook route, I would suggest not doing a TOC and just letting the ereader do it for you. If you use a POD service for print books, you can constrain the pagination in your source file so that you could pop in a TOC in that version if you wanted. The pages in the PDF source reflect what will actually be printed, unlike an ebook where pagination is malleable according to the reader/settings.

The smaller-but-no-less-annoying issue is that the page numbers that a Nook displays just don't relate to actual clicks. I was displaying a lot of text on screen in my novel (We chose to go with pretty narrow side margins to try to maximize screen usage, figuring folks might like fewer clicks per word, but it's a minor thing). The end result is that we sometimes get where a "background page cut" happens twice on one "click page." So the Nook goes from like 7 to 9. On a Kindle it's not an issue because it's percent and "locations."

As of now, I know of no fix for the Nook issue as changing font settings on the user end means that what's displayed on screen per click can vary widely. It becomes a bit of an issue in non-fiction since how do you cite an excerpt for reference? In fiction, it shouldn't be an issue unless you're doing like a chose-your-own adventure book or something (Remember those? I love them!).

Long response is long :-). I'll shoot you an email/comment to make sure you see this...

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